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Comment: National fire statistics

Earlier this year, IAFF Canada published a legislative fact sheet calling for the establishment of a national office for fire statistics. It cites its reason as follows: “Reliable national fire statistics for Canada are impossible if even one province or territory’s statistics, as collected by the office of its fire marshal or fire commissioner, are unavailable or out of date.”

December 6, 2007
By Drew McCarthy


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Earlier this year, IAFF Canada published a legislative fact sheet calling for the establishment of a national office for fire statistics. It cites its reason as follows: “Reliable national fire statistics for Canada are impossible if even one province or territory’s statistics, as collected by the office of its fire marshal or fire commissioner, are unavailable or out of date.”

An IAFF research survey in late 2006 concluded that most provinces’ statistics are several years out of date. For example, in December 2006, the most recent fire statistics available from B.C. were from 2000, with the 2001 to 2003 statistics not expected to be available until 2007. Only two provinces, Ontario and Manitoba, had any information available from 2005, and a few provinces had information from 2004. The rest could only report numbers from five or more years ago.

To remedy the situation, the IAFF is asking for the establishment of a national office that would create reliable, comprehensive national statistics using standardized reporting criteria, in the same way that federal departments and agencies collect information about other important public safety issues.

For example, issues relating to crime and justice in Canada are addressed through detailed statistical reports released annually by Statistics Canada. This national data collection serves both the public and the law enforcement community by giving them an annual overview of the state of crime in Canada. The ability to identify trends enables the public and law enforcement professionals to properly advocate for their own safety. It also enables law enforcement officials to direct resources where they are most needed.

Similar statistical monitoring of firerelated incidents would allow the fire service to measure the effectiveness of many of its programs, including its fire prevention and training initiatives. Over time, an outcome analysis would reveal whether resources are being used in the best possible fashion.

In the U.S., there is a single government agency – the United States Fire Administration (USFA) – that collects, analyzes and disseminates a full range of national statistics on the fire service each year.

Here in Canada, national fire loss statistics are compiled through the Council of Canadian Fire Marshals and Fire Commissioners, or CCFM & FC. This group consists of the appointed fire marshal or commissioner in each province and territory and reporting is done in collaboration with Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC).

The IAFF suggests, however, that their available figures are out of date and perhaps, more importantly, don’t encompass a useful range of issues relating to the fire service and public safety. In early 2007, for example, the latest information available in a fire loss report from the CCFM & FC was still from 2001 and it did not include information from two provinces.

The IAFF’s call for a dedicated national office of fire statistics is based on an understanding that a properly collected and maintained statistical database could provide a foundation for creating effective policy.

Establishing such a national office would require a serious investment on the part of the federal government, but one that would create important dividends for both the Canadian fire service and the Canadian public at large.


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